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Stop the PR Madness

April 3, 2018
A beleaguered editor calls out for help from beneath a stack of press releases loaded with puffery and impossible-to-prove performance claims about lighting products.

It’s a busy time of the year in the lighting market. You had the recent Light + Buildings trade show in Frankfurt, Germany, May’s LightFair being held this year in Chicago, and the annual conference of the National Association of Innovative Lighting Distributors (NAILD) that took place in February.

If you are a business magazine editor covering the lighting market you know the time of year without even looking at a calendar because you see the seasonal flock of emails flying into your inbox from public relations folks promoting their clients’ new lighting products or trying to secure booth appointments at one of the big lighting shows.

Many of these promotional pitches are totally legitimate and are an integral part of marketing in the lighting industry. With the integration of LEDs and other solid-state electronics, app-based wireless lighting control and IoT (Internet of Things) into new lighting products, there’s more serious research and development and product launches happening in lighting than in any other product niche.

But human nature is human nature, and some PR professionals take it way over the top. We see it in the trade press, and I am sure electrical distributors and reps see their share of puffery from lighting marketers trying to get them to stock and/or sell their company’s latest LED wares. With tongue firmly planted in cheek, I would like to offer three simple tips (and perhaps a cry for sanity) to any lighting manufacturers out there trying to get their latest lighting products more exposure in the trade press, more space on the shelves of distributors, or into more specifications by architects and engineers for construction projects.

#1. Don’t start your emails off with the phrase “Dear Valued Media Professional.” Really? That’s supposed to catch my attention? It sounds more like a junk-mail pitch to get donations for some wingnut cause than an effort to get me to read a few more sentences to see if the lighting product might be of interest to my readers.  I regularly get emails with this salutation from a seasoned lighting public relations pro who knows better.

#2. When promoting a LED lighting product don’t bother with the fluff. Everybody thinks their newborn baby is the most adorable. But when promoting a new product, never say anything close to “another option that no other competitor can offer,” “engineered to the finest detail for unsurpassed performance and design sophistication, ” or “spectacular lighting dynamics debuted.”

Yes, I actually received emails saying this sort of stuff, and I keep my barf bag within easy reach when I open one and spot this verbiage. Editors regularly see this  (and worse) in the press releases we get from PR agencies, and I bet distributors and reps have to slog through much of the same garbage when evaluating new products from their vendors.

Aside from the fact that we don’t have the time (or light meters) to prove even the least outlandish of these claims, no one but a complete shill would write this about some lighting manufacturer’s new lighting product.

It’s annoying that editors have to take the time to delete this stuff. This verbiage may slip through some content farms that just regurgitate press releases, but editors and lighting pros will see right through it.  Just say “no,” if someone asks you to include it in a press release.

#3. Please, please, pretty-please provide succinct product information, a high-resolution photo and a link we can provide to more detailed product specifications. We get way too many press releases that ramble on for hundreds of words in glowing terms about a new lighting product, but then don’t provide any real technical specifications or a photo that could tell their story better. Word to the wise —100 words or less is better, and don’t bother with the fluffy prose.

That’s my rant for the month.  These three simple tips apply to any marketing effort. Always try to make your customer’s life easier and provide them with the information they need to do their job better. It’s Marketing 101, but you will get more exposure for your products by following these simple rules.